Happy Halloween!

How I spent Halloween 2012:
1) Went to spinning at 6 AM where we listened to Halloween music while earning calorie credits for all of the candy we were planning to eat later (or maybe that was just me)
2) Shared some homemade salted caramel chocolate chip cookies and red velvet chocolate chip cookies with my co-workers
3) Ate some yummy Halloween chocolates provided by another co-worker
4) Wondered if I could subsist entirely on sugar today without my head exploding
5) Reveled in the cool weather that is a wonderful respite from the lingering summer heat here in Los Angeles
6) Watched “Hocus Pocus” (How many times can the word “virgin” be used in a single movie?)
7) Watched “It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown” (a Halloween tradition)
8) Make a list of ingredients for a whole bunch of baked goods I intend to make on Friday and Saturday
9) Washed dishes – woohoo!
10) Bought a ticket to go see my brother in San Francisco for Thanksgiving!

Fall baking 2012

It’s that time of year again – time for me to be way too ambitious about my fall baking! Lately I’ve been sorting a bunch of recipes that I’m dying to try into three Pinterest boards – “Halloween 2012,” “Thanksgiving 2012,” and “Christmas 2012.” I thought I was ahead of the game as far as planning my holiday baking, but all of a sudden Halloween is this week and I haven’t made anything! Time to change that. Here is a first draft of my baking schedule for the next month. Check back often to see how faithfully I’m sticking to it!

Pumpkin carving contest at work (Wednesday – yikes!) – Red velvet chocolate chip cookies, Pumpkin bars, Salted caramel chocolate chip cookies

Halloween party (Saturday – double yikes!) – Pumpkin bread, Pear loaf cake, Salted caramel brownies

Fall potluck at work – Crockpot pulled pork, Crockpot teriyaki chicken, Pumpkin pie sheet cake, White Texas sheet cake

Fall bake-off at work – Caramel apple bundt cake, Snickerdoodle bundt cake, Nutella bundt cake (probably just 2 of these 3)

Thanksgiving – Apple cider spice bread, Maple pound cake, Pecan pie cake

Sad day in Gainesville

Today was a sad day for the Gator faithful. A horrible loss to Georgia pretty much blocked their path to the SEC championship game, although you never can tell how the college football season is going to end. But no matter how badly your football team loses, I have discovered that it is never a good idea to eat homemade chocolate frosting directly out of the bowl with a spoon while sitting on the couch, wallowing in your own misery. (And it’s even sadder when you have a quart of milk on the coffee table next to you.) In case you were wondering, your stomach will not thank you for it later. But I will forever bleed orange and blue. Go Gators!

Foodie Friday – Chocolate chip cookies #15

Chocolate chip cookies #15: Based on The Traveling Spoon’s Ultimate Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies. Baked on 9/15/12.

I remember earlier this year I ran across this recipe for coconut oil chocolate chip cookies and I was intrigued. To start with I had no idea what coconut oil was, but any chocolate chip cookie with an unusual ingredient was one I had to try. So I bought a jar of coconut oil at Whole Foods and got to baking. Of course I turned the original recipe from drop cookies into cookie bars for simplicity – what did you expect? I’m lazy! In case you were wondering, I’ve discovered that any cookie recipe that calls for a 1/2 cup of butter or oil can be effortlessly turned into an 8×8″ pan of cookie bars. Just press the dough into the pan and bake for 25 to 30 minutes until golden. It’s just that easy! But back to the recipe. Everything about these chocolate chip cookies is conventional except for the coconut oil which means your everyday pantry already has most of the ingredients. Always a plus. The coconut oil makes these cookie bars soft and chewy. Very tasty. And apparently coconut oil has some health benefits. That makes these cookies good for you, right? Classic chewy chocolate chip cookie taste and healthy to boot. I’ll take it!

No fairy godmothers

“People are going to tell you who you are your whole life, but you’ve just got to punch back and say, ‘No, this is who I am.’ If you want people to look at you differently, make them. If you want to change things you are going to have to go out there and change them yourself, because there are no fairy godmothers in this world.”
Once Upon a Time

Chocolate chip cookies #14

Chocolate chip cookies #14: Based on Two Peas and Their Pod’s M&M Chocolate Chip Blondies. Baked on 9/15/12.

Stop the presses! I think I may have found the best homemade chocolate chip cookie recipe! It’s no secret that for simplicity I like making cookie bars rather than drop cookies, so I started with a basic blondie recipe when I made these brown butter and brown sugar chocolate chip cookie bars. I made a couple of changes to the original recipe to create these absolutely delicious cookie bars. I browned the butter before adding the sugar (just brown sugar – no white sugar in this recipe), I omitted the M&Ms and doubled the amount of chocolate chips, and I used a mix of semi-sweet and milk chocolate chips. They turned out mouth-wateringly good. The combination of brown butter and brown sugar gives these cookies a rich caramel flavor that I loved (and my co-workers seemed to like as well – these cookies disappeared quickly). Since I still have several chocolate chip cookie recipes I’d like to try before the end of the year I’m not quite ready to give the prize to this one, but I have a feeling it will still come out on top. I can’t imagine anything is going to be any better. I’ll have to post the exact recipe that I used to make them one day soon since I departed from the blondie recipe I based it on. Until then, if you’re making chocolate chip cookies, I highly recommend browning the butter. It makes all the difference!

Blazers

It’s been another couple of cool days here in Los Angeles! The natives rejoice! Although it’s supposed to get warm again by the end of the week, I think fall is almost here to stay. And that’s great news because I have three brand new blazers that I’m dying to add to my wardrobe rotation. I got two of them in Florida last month and I bought the third one shortly after I got back to California (because I couldn’t find my size in Tallahassee). So any guesses how I celebrated the last two day’s cool weather? By wearing blazers, of course! On Monday I wore one of the new ones, a red blazer from the Gap. It made me so happy. Nothing makes Monday mornings easier to handle than wearing a really great outfit. (Not that Monday mornings are ever easy, but I’m a fan of anything that soothes the transition from the weekend.) And then today I wore one of my old blazers, a favorite from J. Crew that I’ve had for years. Unfortunately I think my jacket wearing days are over got the week, but I enjoyed them while they lasted. I know it won’t be long before the hot weather is completely gone for the year. Thank goodness!

Years past

“When I got outside I wanted to dance and sing and basically make as much noise as possible. There was some kind of exhibition going on in the parking lot so shouting didn’t seem like a viable option with so many people to hear. The only celebrating I indulged in on the way back to my car was walking with my mouth open and a silly grin on my face. I had done it. I had conquered the GRE and I never had to worry about taking it again. For the moment I was free.”
10/21/01

“Will someone please invent software that will post my thoughts directly to my webpage? Well, maybe just a selective set of my thoughts.”
10/20/02

“My lab isn’t exactly the ideal place to hold office hours because the dry erase board is located on the wall behind a desk and is difficult to write notes. After a few minutes of trying to lean over the desk to scribble diagrams and equations I gave up and climbed onto it to get closer to the board. As I stood up on the desk I said to the students, ‘Those guys are probably going to walk in right now.’ The tour group didn’t show up just then, but about a minute later instead. So there I was, standing on a table when ten people arrive in the combustion lab for a tour. That’s just the impression I want to make on industry representatives and visiting academics.”
10/20/03

“I learned that if you wear workout shorts with ‘GATORS’ printed across the butt you will be defined by them. I guess it’s not the worst way to be described, but it’s still pretty weird. Instead of being ‘pretty’ or ‘smart,’ I’m a ‘troublemaker’ and ‘that girl with the words across her shorts.’ ”
10/20/05

“I’m starting to think that my watching the Gator football games is cursing them.”
10/20/07

“It was 38 degrees when I left work this morning and there was frost on my car. Brrr!”
10/20/08

Chocolate chip cookies #13

Chocolate chip cookies #13: Based on Baking Blonde’s Cheater Chocolate Chip Cookies. Baked on 9/8/12.

I’ll bet you’re wondering why these are called cheater chocolate chip cookies, right? Well, it’s because the main ingredient is a boxed yellow cake mix. Cheater cookies indeed! This recipe is extremely simple and a good way to make use of an extra cake mix, but they’re definitely not at the top of the list of chocolate chip cookies I’ve made this year. They were just a bit too cake-y for me. My co-workers didn’t seem to mind, though. One of the good things about my large-ish program is that there’s always going to be someone who likes whatever I make. Not that I’d take anything I hated to share at work, but I’m not always the biggest fan of my baking experiments. But I always knew there would be bumps on the road to finding the best homemade chocolate chip cookie recipe. Luckily I’ve made three batches since these that have all been much more successful. One might even be a strong contender for the best recipe, but I’ll save those details for a future post. You’ll just have to come back to find out!